8. Oneness in Diversity
A foreign visitor sought Swamiji's guidance in the matter of removing obstacles in spiritual advancement and meditation.
Swamiji: What are the obstacles that you wish to overcome?
Visitor: Strong desires and attachments.
Swamiji: How many?
Visitor: Endless, very difficult to keep count of.
Swamiji: There must be some main ones, from which others branch out. Choose, let us say, about five or six of the main ones. To tackle a small number is practical and easy to begin with. Take each of these desires and attachments separately, and tackle it. Let us say there is a man who is suffering from a number of diseases like eczema of the foot, anaemia and a weak heart. The physician will not attempt to cure all these ailments at the same time, nor will he give the same priority to all these problems. He will tackle one disease at a time. Since the heart is weak, the doctor first tries to strengthen the heart, then he may treat the causes of anaemia, and turn his attention last to eczema which needs a prolonged period of treatment.
In reality there may not be as many desires and attachments as you think you have. It may be only a few that are taking the shape of many. Make a list of all the desires first. Then classify them into what can be fulfilled or can be tackled successfully, what cannot be fulfilled, what should not be fulfilled, those that are impracticable, those that are unnecessary, and those that are mischievous in their nature.
Consider each of these listed factors with knowledge and intelligence. With them you would prepare yourself to face an enemy. The enemy cannot be ignored. You must use the wisdom you have gained in life, which is common sense, in preparing to face the enemy. Difficulties arise only when the desires are what you do not want to give up. Then only God can help. At a moment you are in between the desire to give up and the desire not to give up. Suppose you want to stay in the Taj Mahal hotel and have a desire to have a cup of coffee or to have a good meal, satisfy these desires, because they are practicable. Suppose you desire to become the president of the country with no means of achieving this end, it is an impracticable desire and common sense should dictate that this desire should be given up because it is impracticable and foolish. Castles in the air…
In satisfying any desire, examine the pros and cons of the matter and wisely come to the conclusion whether it should or should not be satisfied. The desires of the ego, like wanting to become the president of the country, must be tackled by the use of common sense and deep philosophical study of the science of life. A philosophical investigation must be made as to the ultimate purpose of a desire and the necessity of satisfying it.
Such a philosophical investigation leads to the desires being thinned out and finally dropping off. It is this philosophical investigation that the mind must be trained to make, and this training must be carried on persistently and tenaciously. Then you will get the result you want to achieve. What are the studies you do? You say you are a psychologist. What books have you read?
Visitor: The Tibetan Book of the Dead by Dr. Evans Wentz has been translated into English. It deals with the astral body; conventional philosophy like Kant's, Hegel and Plato.
Swamiji: What do you understand from them?
Visitor: They all say the same thing. Society makes it difficult to practise the guidance Swamiji has given. How to strike a balance between the different demands made upon us?
Swamiji: By seeing the presence of oneness in diversity. In our physical body there are different features like the ear, the nose, the mouth. Also there are millions of cells of the body. There are several limbs in the body. Although all these are different from one another, we see the body as one whole, and not as different parts as though not related to the body. The consciousness we have regarding the body, its oneness, must be expanded in the outer world also. This no doubt is not easy, but only then can the balance be maintained. The outer world is as much an organic whole as the physical body, is. The senses gather information and report it to the mind. The mind accepts these reports. But supposing the mind says that the leg is unconnected with the body, reason will not accept it. Use the same logic to supersede the report of the senses.
The attitude of affirmation of the organic oneness of the world must be ingrained in the mind. The eyes may tell you that the sky is shaped like a bowl. You do not accept this statement of the eyes. The senses give such unfounded report even with regard to the externality of the world. While you reject the statement of the eyes about the sky, why in the report of the senses that the world is external to you, unconnected, why do you believe this statement? The sun is not a ball although the eyes see it as a red ball of fire. That the sun rises only in the east is a convention of the society for its own convenience. The sun is rising in your west when it is rising in another place. Overcome all these illogical statements of the senses and social conventions, and drive deep into the mind the affirmation that the universe is an organic whole. This is meditation, and your whole life becomes meditation if you meditate like this. Have you read any other books than what you told me already?
Visitor: I have read Aldous Huxley.
Swamiji: That is no use. Have you heard of Paul Brunton? No? He was a British author and his Wisdom of Yourself will be of good help to you.
Visitor: I have read Yogananda's book An Autobiography of a Yogi.
Swamiji: That is not enough for your purpose.
Visitor: I have read the Mind and its Mysteries, Jnana Yoga, Realisation of the Absolute, Ten Upanishads—all by Swami Sivananda.
Swamiji: Very good. But all this additionally needs practice to achieve the result. Also, aloneness is a must. You must find time to be absolutely by yourself without having to attend to anything whatsoever. What is your profession? What are your hours of work?
Visitor: I work for a public institution on an average nine hours a day. It is roughly forty-five to fifty hours a week. I am at my work and the work is with drug addicts and alcoholics, to get students particularly off their drug habits and alcoholism.
Swamiji: When do you go to bed? What exercise do you do? What is your hobby?
Visitor: I do running. I like to go hiking. I also am interested in photography.
Swamiji: Running after work, after you are already tired, is not helpful to restore energy in your body. Do not have too many hobbies. Doing many things is distracting to the mind. You must find time to sit alone and meditate. Hobbies like photography have got aesthetic value, but aesthetic values are not beneficial ultimately because it is a sensation of enjoyment. This is only stuff and nonsense ultimately, which is a waste of time for you. So you must find time to be alone and to meditate. This will lead you to what you wish to achieve and remove the obstacles in your path in the form of desires and attachments.
(An Italian visitor has joined the gathering with her child, a toddler.)
Visitor: May I take photos of people here, the kitchen, the other buildings in the Ashram?
Swamiji: Why? What do you want to do with so many photos?
Visitor: I want to send to different people who are interested in Ashrams.
Swamiji: Yes, you can take photos. What is your profession?
Visitor. I am working in a company which manufactures natural food. It is called Macrobiotics. The object is similar to philosophical ethics. Like massage is a natural way of restoring strength to the muscles and nerves.
Swamiji: Can you get rid of wishes, thoughts by feeding people with natural foods?
Visitor: No good with macrobiotics.
Swamiji: So go to macro psychotic, not biotic.
Someone: Another objection, Swamiji, is that the company cannot supply truly natural food.
Visitor: There are people who oppose this idea of natural biotics.
Swamiji: Jesus also was opposed by people, like you are now opposed by people. While opposition need not be a discouragement, there are other points to be taken into consideration. An integral outlook is necessary to effectively overcome opposition. Snakes, for instance, eat very pure food. They live on pure air. But they are dangerous elements in the world. A pure dietician, like the snake, can be a dangerous element in the world. The food must be natural to not only the physical being of man but also to his vital being, also to his social environment.
And, finally, it must be natural to the cosmic vibrations. So macro-cosmic is more important than anything that goes to make man. This is a very important point to be noted. You say you are Italian, but you speak English so well. What can we do for you? What do you want from the Ashram?
Visitor: I am just travelling around. I am going to South India on a tour. I like travelling and seeing places.
Swamiji: Why do you want to obey the law of your likes? Why do you want to be subjected to likes and dislikes?
Visitor: There is much disturbance all the time in Italy. One wants to get away for a little peace.
Someone: The whole of Europe is like Italy. Going from bad to worse. The world must be coming to an end.
Swamiji: A German, Oswald Spenglar, has written a book called The Decline of the West. It is very depressing and revolutionary in thought. He proves his statements scientifically, and this title has become as famous as Darwin's Origin of the Species, which scientifically puts forth the Theory of Evolution. So is Schophenhauer's book World as Will and Idea. But it is not true that the world is going to the dogs. It is going to God... There are three huge volumes of this book. He spent his lifetime writing it. Such was his devotion to study.
No modern student is prepared to devote himself to such a lifetime study. They are like flitting birds, picking now from here, now from there. They are made of straw, and have no substance in them. They move, float on the surface, and can never dive deeper than that. The world of today, therefore, seems to be going from bad to worse. But history moves in a circle, and therefore there is the theory of the recurrence of values. The extremes exchange their places. Prosperity swings to austerity, and then to the reverse direction. The world is relative in its values, and hence it is never in a position of wholeness. So at any given period of time we have to take a little from all sides of nature, or the world, as you may put it, in evaluating the position we are in.
Someone: Is this historical cycle mechanical?
Swamiji: Yes, mechanical; it is accepted so by the East and the West. The details of the points of the circle will vary, but not the points of the circle as such. The menu of our food is varied every day, but our eating is not varied.
An ashramite: According to this theory of the recurrence of values, it would become necessary to repeat transmigration, birth to birth, to ingrain correct thinking into the mind?
Swamiji: Yes, a single dose of medicine cannot cure disease. You cannot heat ten quintals of water with the fire of one matchstick.
Thank you all for giving me your darshan. Now, it is time for luncheon. Go and have your food.